Jackfruit. A near-miraculous, versatile source of nourishment, or a “gross-looking lump of fibre – fat, spiky and green”?
Last week, British newspaper The Guardian published a piece by columnist Zoe Williams who eviscerated the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as a “spectacularly ugly, smelly … pest-plant” which people consumed “only if they had nothing better to eat”.
Her comments soon caused an uproar online, with keyboard warriors from across Asia rallying to defend their favourite tropical foodstuff.
Why does this colonial bs persist in food writing? That some tropical people 'let a food rot' or 'use it as birdfeed' until the white saviour discovers value in it as vegan miracle, superfood etc. https://t.co/YRXSl7MwXf @zoesqwilliams @guardian 1/2
— Niranjana Ramesh (@niranjwrite) March 27, 2019
“This is one of the most offensive bits of food writing I have read in a while, and trust, there is a lot of competition on this front,” Vindhya Buthpitiya, a researcher at University College London, wrote on Twitter.
The Guardian article came just weeks after London-based chocolatier Paul Young caused outrage online for comparing the lingering taste of another Asian favourite – durian – to the enduring damage done by domestic abuse.
He described it as “the world’s worst-tasting fruit”, apparently overlooking the fact that it is highly prized across the region for its complex flavour, and classed like fine wine according to its characteristics, quality and origin.
Honestly, these tone-deaf headlines. A good portion of the world believes that jackfruit is *already* delicious.https://t.co/CZCRNeA3Qy
— Robyn Eckhardt (@EatingAsia) March 28, 2019
Jackfruit stewed in coconut milk, or gudeg, is a popular traditional Javanese dish, and the fruit figures prominently in many South and Southeast Asian cuisines. Writers and eaters across the globe have fought back in its defence.
“This is what food writers of colour are up against. If I wanted to write about Keralan jackfruit dumplings steamed in fresh bay leaves, most editors would reject it – ‘too niche’. Yet this breathtakingly lazy, ignorant, and embarrassing nonsense gets published,” said London-based food writer Sejal Sukhadwala on Twitter.
Commenters responded with offers to pay her to publish the recipe.
“Food should be the easiest thing to write about with respect, especially now that journalists have the bounty of the internet literally at their fingertips,” said writer Pooja Pillai, also on Twitter. “The Guardian writer encountered jackfruit as a vegan trend taking over the Western world and I can only pity her, I guess, because she remains unaware of the silky sweetness of ripe jackfruit.”
Jackfruit is a delicacy in India and prepared for festive occasions.
This is an important produce that was bartered by the forest-dwelling Vanavasi tribes to the tribes practicing agriculture, along with honey and spices. The world has a history before the west “discovered” it. https://t.co/qQDiHNQGEb
— vakibs (@vakibs) March 28, 2019
“The jackfruit in Thailand is always eaten ripe, and in India it’s always eaten unripe,” she said. “My mum actually always used to describe it as chicken, and the fruit is so high in umami, you don’t miss the meat. Within the same course, you have two separate ideas of what the same food should be, and it surprises you.”
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Unripe Jackfruit, Roti Pickles - Gaa, Nov 2018 - Jackfruit roasted in different herbs, served with picked mango, shallots, carrot and cilantro. - - - #food#foodie#eeeeeats#foodandwine#gastronomy#infatuationfoodstagram#foodpics#foodphotography#foodstyling#foodworld#instafood#instadaily#foodporn#gastronogram#theartofplating#eater#culinary#foodlovers#foodblogger#foodism#finedining#gastroart#eatwithvinie_bangkok#eatwithvinie_gaa#restaurantgaa
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Meanwhile, in a post titled “With Jackfruit We Stand” on media platform The Better India, Lekshmi Priya S wrote, “Hating a fruit without really knowing its virtues or versatility, or the culture it has intrinsically woven itself into only seems to indicate one has yet a lot to learn.”
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